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What I Learned From Watching Day 10 of The Euros 2012

June 18, 2012

Group B’s Father’s Day closing slate of Euro 2012 matches proceeded much like an average Father’s Day experience itself – usually entertaining, not many surprises, ties aren’t usually desired – as the bell tolled for the “Group of Death.”  I’m confident you’ll pick up the focus of this piece rather quickly:

  • What can I say about The Dutch?  Certainly I was wrong to predict them to win it all when they couldn’t even win one game, but enough about me.  Sometimes an abundance of talent just doesn’t come together, see France’s 2010 World Cup for a recent reference. There are several detailed post-mortem analyses about the 2010 World Cup Finalist’s early departure from Euro 2012 (linking several of them herein), but my main conclusion is about the Manager, Bert van Marwijk. I believe he went to the well a few times too often, trying to do the same things as he did in 2010 against Denmark and Germany, expecting the same results – which when it didn’t work against Denmark, is insanity against Germany – and only making positive changes to his lineup with Slim walking out the door. To Van Marwijk’s credit, some of those changes paid immediate benefits yesterday, as inserting RVDV for prior Captain (and current son-in-law) Marco van Bommel in the center midfield jump started the Dutch cause and paid off with an 11th minute goal from RVDV.  Needing at least a two goal victory over Portugal, the early lead only whetted the appetite for what was to come, surely the Dutch were in flow and would extend themselves and the game to a thrilling conclusion one way or the other.  And then … and then … *whistling quietly* … *crickets* … *tumbleweeds* … nothing else came.  Portugal turned off the Dutch faucet, quickly and quietly, and put a stranglehold on the remainder of the match. No tactical adjustments came from Van Marwijk, no effective ideas with substitutions occurred either – inserting Ibrahim Afellay for defender Jetro Willems as an extra winger (and his only substitution for the entire match) might have been somewhat novel if Afellay hadn’t been completely ineffective the prior two games, and I’m still waiting to see Kevin Strootman. I won’t argue much with those who fault the performances of several players, even former players and opponents hitting out at their dysfunction and perceived arrogance, but to me those were only the symptoms of a chronic disorder afflicting the Netherlands’ approach to this tournament, an approach spearheaded by one man. Who, by the way, is under contract until 2016.  “Total Football” needs an upgrade, and I’m less than sure Van Marwijk is the man for the job.
  • To no one’s surprise, Germany won Group B, but what surprised me a little bit is how comprehensively they beat all three opponents.  Narrow scoring margins (three 1-goal victories) belie how much in control they were of almost every minute of every match.  Yesterday’s match wasn’t without tension, the precocious Danes tying the match five minutes after Lukas Podolski opened the scoring in the 19th minute, with another opportunistic goal from Michael Krohn-Dehli (who I hope will pad his bank accounts from his performances in the Euros) in the 24th minute.  Yet it was with the same inevitability that Germany got their winner in the 80th minute from Lars Bender’s cool finish, a midfielder for his club team deputizing for suspended right back Jerome Boateng and scoring his first goal for Die Mannschaft. Clear favorites to win Euro 2012 now, they prepare for a match against Greece in the quarterfinals with undertones that go far beyond the pitch.
  • Alas, poor Denmark. Nothing is rotten there, except for the opponents they were drawn in Group B and their resulting fate. I thought they acquitted themselves well, going about the business of playing soccer in an intelligent, yeomanly if not artistic fashion, and probably would have qualified in place of any team in Group A and all but France in Group D.  Fortune’s furious fickle wheel indeed.

Up Next: Monday June 18, Group C decides its fate with Croatia vs. Spain and Ireland vs. Italy simultaneously at 11:45AM PST. My eyes were on Croatia-Spain as that had more on the line for both teams, although I was checking in often on Ireland-Italy to see if Trapa had one last trick up his sleeve for his home country (he didn’t, but more on that tomorrow).


From → Soccer, Sports

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